Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting tattooed: What to expect during and after.

So you have found a great artist, decided on what you want to get and where. Good for you!  Here is what to do next:

  • Go talk to the artist.  
    • Stop by the shop and discuss with the artist what you want and where.  He will give you feedback and you can come to a conclusion.  This needs to be done in person, not over the phone or on facebook. Calling ahead to see if the artist is free is ok.  If you get there and the artist is busy, ask how long until he is done or taking a break.  Tell the person at the counter you are wanting to talk to the artist about a tattoo.  If he is busy you can wait or come back.  The best time to go is during the week, generally as close to when they open as possible.  You are going to have this for the rest of your life so there is no reason to rush this.
    • This is also a good time to discuss price.  Ask what the artist thinks the piece will cost.  If it is a big or detailed piece he may not be able to give you a definite answer but should be able to put it in the ballpark.  Do not try to haggle the price down!  Do you really want somebody to permanently mark on you who you implied wasn't worth his price?
    • After you talk to the artist you can set up an appointment.  You may also need to pay a deposit to hold your time slot, especially if you are using a busier artist.

So you got an appointment, and you wait and wait and finally the day comes!  What should you do, and what can you expect once you get to the shop?

  • Take a shower before you go!
    • This should be common sense.  You are going to be spending time with your artist leaned over close to you, you shouldn't stink.  Also, a fresh tattoo is technically an open wound.  You do not want it to get dirty and get infected.
  • If you are getting inked somewhere with a lot of hair, shave the area before you go.
    • The tattoo artist will shave the area again anyway, but there is no point in him having to spend 10 minutes trying to clear your jungle of arm hair off.
  • Show up early.
    • Show up before your appointment to have time to fill out the paperwork and get ready.
  • DON'T drink, do drugs, or take any sort of pain medication that may include blood thinners.
    • You WILL bleed when you get a tattoo.  Don't do anything to make yourself bleed more.
    • In most(if not all) places, it is actually illegal to tattoo somebody that is drunk.  Don't do it.
  • DO eat before you go.  Being stabbed thousands of times with a needle is a shock to your body.  It is fairly common for your blood sugar to drop and you can actually pass out.  This is more embarrassing than anything.  NOTE: While you are being tattooed on, if you start to feel woozy or lightheaded AT ALL, TELL THE ARTIST!  This happens, and he will know what to do.  Nothing wrong with taking a break and drinking a coke or eating something.
  • Go over any last minute updates, or any questions or concerns you may have before you get started.  Once you start, you are committed.
  • The drawing will be put onto your skin via transfer paper.  This gives the artist a "stencil" or guide for doing the outlining.  Unless you are really brave and let them do it freehand!  
  • The artist will get you situated where he can get to the area easily.  Then he will get out all of the supplies he needs to do your tattoo.  All of your needles will be brand new, taken out of the pack in front of you.  They then get disposed of when you are done.  The artist will usually use two separate tattoo guns, one for outlining, and one for shading.  All ink used will be put in small disposable ink cups so the main bottle does not get contaminated.
  • GO TIME!!

  • About the pain: IT HURTS, REALLY REALLY BAD!!!!  Actually, depending on your pain tolerance and location of the tattoo it really isn't that bad.  Generally speaking, the closer to the bone the location is, the more pain there will be.  Also, the more detail in the piece, the more times the same spot is going to be gone over, the more it will hurt.
  • Actually getting a tattoo is my favorite part.  I love to watch the art come out of nothing.  Even if a stencil is used, the skill is in getting crisp lines that aren't jagged or crooked.  The shading and coloring is where the great artists are distinguished from the good ones.
  • During the tattoo, the artist will wash the excess ink off with antibacterial green soap.  This stuff has a distinctive clean smell.  I can't smell it without thinking "tattoo shop." 
  • When the tattoo is done you get to check it out.  If you notice anything you don't like point it out.  Sometimes a spot may need touched up.  
  • Congratulations, you have your first tattoo!  The artist will bandage the spot up, you can pay anything you didn't pay for before you got started, and you are ready to go.  If you like it, Tip The Artist!
  • If you decide you want to use any special creams or lotions made just for helping tattoos heal, you can also get them at the shop at this time.  Ask the artist if you aren't sure.  He will give you instructions on how to care for the tattoo.
  • After you leave the shop, leave the bandage on for at least a few hours.  4-6 is usually sufficient. 
  • It is normal for the tattoo to burn a little during the first day or two.  To me it feels like a sunburn.
  • When you take the bandage off, gently wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap.  You should wash the tattoo 2 or 3 times a day for the first several days to keep it clean.  You don't want any hard spray of water to hit the tattoo, let the water run onto it.  Don't soak the tattoo for at least a week, preferably two.  This includes swimming, hot tubs, long baths.
  • Keep the tattoo moisturized, but not too much so.  You can use the cream you got at the shop for this, or just regular unscented lotion.  Don't let the tattoo get dry but don't put so much lotion on that it clogs up your pores.
  • Don't wear tight clothing over the tattoo for a few days.  Don't re-bandage after you take the first bandage off.  The tattoo needs air to heal.
  • Don't use petroleum jelly based products, this can actually make your new tattoo fade, or pull color out while it is healing.
  • Use caution in the sun.  The sun is the number 1 thing that will cause your tattoo to fade.  It is always a good idea to use sunscreen over the tattoo if you are going to be exposed for any length of time.
  • Don't pick at any scabs that may form.  Pulling a scab off before it is ready can pull color/ink out with it.  If you do get scabs, it is normal for them to be the color of the tattoo, just don't rip it off.
After a couple of weeks, your tattoo will be fully healed.  If you notice any spots that need touched up, stop by the shop and show the artist and he will usually be happy to touch it up for you.  Your tattoo artist wants your tattoo to look good as much as you do.  Happy customers are repeat customers, and happy customers tell(and show!) their friends.  Enjoy your tattoo! Check me out on facebook at

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